Top US military executive now in Philippines over maritime, security issues

Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, arrives in the Philippines to meet with senior military officials in Manila, Sunday. The United States and the Philippines share a Mutual Defense Treaty, and the two nations work closely together through bi-lateral and multi-lateral training to enhance interoperability. U.S. NAVY PHOTO

The senior United States commander in the Pacific region is in the Philippines and is scheduled to meet with President Benigno S. Aquino and other top defense officials to discuss maritime and security issues.

Navy Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III, commander of US Pacific Command, arrived Sunday (July 15, 2012) "to reaffirm the strength of the U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty and to explore how the US can support efforts to boost Philippine military capacity," the US Department of Defense said in a statement.

The pact between the US and the Philippines says that both countries will support each other when attacked by an external party.

"Now, as the security environment changes, many countries recognize that there has got to be more maritime domain awareness [and] more understanding of what is happening around them rather than [just] what is happening internally," Locklear said.

"So what we are looking for is to try to provide [the Philippines] assistance that builds the interoperability of our defense forces over time," he said.

"This is a reaffirmation that the Mutual Defense Treaty is still in place and still strong. And it is an opportunity for us to find places and missions were we can partner and exercise together in a way that will increase our overall security cooperation and increase security in this critical part of the Asia-Pacific."

Locklear's visit came amid tense maritime dispute among Asian countries in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).

He made it clear in an earlier statement, however that the United States does not take sides in territorial disputes and encourages peaceful resolution through international legal processes.

Unresolved "excessive maritime claims that cause friction among neighbors," he said, could lead to "miscalculation" that threatens stability.

Locklear, who will also meet with Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and military chief General Jessie Dellosa, said he will "seek ways to expand the U.S.-Philippine military-to-military relationship in ways that promote regional stability and security."

"On the military side, a productive alliance requires us to be able to work together, to have connectivity with each other, to be able to share information, and to be able to bring our military systems together in a meaningful way across all aspects of military power – whether it's humanitarian assistance and disaster relief or a contingency or otherwise," he said.

"I'm looking forward to giving the message to the Filipino military and to the leaders there that the United States is a very reliable ally," he said. "We want the Filipinos to be a reliable ally to us as well."

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also visited the country in June.

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